Reading

Saints And Curses – Alexis Langten | A Book Review

Title: Saints and Curses

Author: Alexis Langten

Genre: Fantasy (Anthology)

About the book: It’s a collection of fantastical short stories.

I received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: I don’t know of many fantasy short story collections, but I do tend to enjoy fantasy novels, so I was looking forward to reading this anthology.

Characters: There are a lot of different characters, and even though the stories aren’t long, I still found myself liking or relating to many of them. The stories mainly follow a protagonist with a few secondary individuals.

Quote:

“None of the things I loved could ever make me any money.”

Writing: For the most part, the stories are short. Some run longer than others, and at the end, the author includes a few very short ones that fit the length of a tweet.

I appreciated how most of the stories started off realistic with fantastical or magical elements appearing a little later. It was nice to feel grounded in a real-world setting first, which in my opinion, made the magic more believable.

Final thoughts: It’s a short book at under 200 pages filled with a number of stories about fantasy. If that sounds like your cup of tea, consider checking out Saints and Curses.


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Reading

The Downstairs Girl – Stacey Lee | A Book Review

Title: The Downstairs Girl

Author: Stacey Lee

Genre: Historical Fiction (Young Adult)

About the book: It follows a Chinese teenager named Jo Kuan. She works as a maid by day and writes an anonymous advice column by night. Jo challenges commonly held ideas of race and gender in 1800s Atlanta, which leads to backlash from readers.

I received an advanced review copy from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: The cover sold me. I was also intrigued by the title and premise.

Characters: Jo is curious and resourceful. I saw so much of myself in her. I enjoyed seeing the different individuals develop as the story went on. I wasn’t too fond of certain characters early on, yet they grew on me.

I love diversity and representation of traditionally marginalized groups, especially when it’s done right.

Quote:

“One should never confuse cost with value.”

Writing: There’s a little bit of romance but not too much. I’m no expert on how people in Atlanta around 1980 spoke, but in my opinion, the language seems to capture that time period well.

Final thoughts: The novel gets better, and the ending is satisfying.

I highly recommend The Downstairs Girl especially if you’re a fan of historical fiction. Even if you aren’t, it’s an eye-opening read that explores racism and sexism from different perspectives.


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Reading

An Unsettled Grave – Bernard Schaffer | A Book Review

Title: An Unsettled Grave

Author: Bernard Schaffer

Genre: Thriller

About the book: It’s the second in a series following a young cop in Carrie Santero who investigates a cold case. Thirty years ago, a girl went missing, which led to one police officer being killed and another committing suicide.

I received a copy of the book from the author and publisher in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: Not long ago, I read the first book, The Thief of All Light, so I was curious as to what would happen next. The title and cover also piqued my interest.

Characters: Carrie is easy to root for and relate to. Jacob Rein, a former police officer who mentors Carrie, is an interesting individual as well.

Quote:

“Do something you love and be the best you can be at it.”

Writing: It’s written in the third person. The chapters are short and suspenseful. Some events take place in the present while others transpired in the past. I appreciate the contrast between serious moments and lighter ones.

The themes and language are mature. Bernard delves into issues like sexual assault, and he does a good job handling them. The writing is easy to follow, but the subject matter is more difficult.

Final thoughts: I didn’t expect the story to be so sad. That said, I liked the ending. I enjoyed the second book more than The Thief of All Light, but it’s best to read the former novel first.

I recommend An Unsettled Grave to fans of thrillers with a strong female detective as the protagonist.


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Reading

Swipe Right For Murder – Derek Milman | A Book Review

Title: Swipe Right For Murder

Author: Derek Milman

Genre: Mystery (Young Adult)

About the book: Aidan Jamison, a seventeen year old, finds himself on the run from the FBI and a cyber-terrorist organization after a hookup ends with someone murdered.

I received an advanced review copy from Hachette Book Group in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: I love thrillers as much as anybody, so I was excited to read this novel. The title and cover intrigued me. I didn’t know what to expect.

Characters: Aidan is complex, and he has a complicated past. I appreciate the LGBTQ+ diversity with some individuals being gay. The author did a good job of representing different relationships.

Quote:

“But we can’t hold on to so much fury we succumb to pure evil, and become worse than those we hate.”

Writing: The chapters are long but have breaks in between. There’s a little bit of romance, which I didn’t mind too much. Milman addresses issues like drinking and drugs while also exploring equality and civil rights for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Final thoughts: I wasn’t sure how the story would end, but I felt the ending provided me with enough closure.

If you’re interested in diverse YA thrillers, I’d recommend Swipe Right For Murder.


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Reading

How It Feels To Float – Helena Fox | A Book Review

Title: How It Feels To Float

Author: Helena Fox

Genre: Contemporary (Young Adult)

About the book: It’s a debut standalone that follows Biz who lost her dad when she was six years old. The story deals with loss, grief, and mental illness.

I received an advanced review copy from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: I was drawn to the book because of the title and cover. I haven’t read many contemporary novels set outside of North America, so I enjoyed that it’s set in Australia.

Characters: Biz is an interesting character, and I enjoyed seeing her development. She has flaws, yet I found myself relating to her. The story mainly revolves around Biz, but the secondary characters are great too. I wouldn’t have minded learning more about their pasts or problems.

Quote:

“You can’t escape your history.”

Writing: The chapters are short. It’s well-written, lyrical even. Fox addresses issues like depression as well as losing a loved one, and she handled them well.

Final thoughts: I had no idea how the plot would play out, but I liked the ending. A lot happens, and everything makes more sense when I finally learned what happened.

I recommend How It Feels To Float to individuals who want to read a beautifully written novel about some difficult matters in life.


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Reading

The Last Straw – Ed Duncan | A Book Review

Title: The Last Straw

Author: Ed Duncan

Genre: Mystery

About the book: A teenage girl witnesses a carjacking that goes wrong, and the driver ends up dead. Someone tries to murder the teen but kills her father by mistake instead. A lawyer, Paul Elliott, and an enforcer in Rico find themselves targeted by D’Angelo, a killer without a conscience.

I received a free copy of the novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: I like the title, and I was curious to see how it would connect to the narrative. The book is shorter than I expected, but I do prefer fast, action-packed novels over long, drawn-out ones.

Characters: The characters are complex and have unique backstories. I found myself relating to them despite their flaws. One of the main characters, Rico, is described as a killer with a conscience. He’s not perfect, but he’s easier to root for than others. There’s also some diversity as the story explores the racial tension between white and black characters.

Quote:

“I guess I closed my eyes to a lot of things I suspected deep down inside and just didn’t want to see.”

Writing: The chapters are short and suspenseful. It’s a more mature read with some romance and violence mixed in.

Final thoughts: The ending isn’t too unpredictable, but it ties up loose ends.

If you enjoy a quick yet thrilling mystery, check out The Last Straw.


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Reading

One Good Deed – David Baldacci | A Book Review

Title: One Good Deed

Author: David Baldacci

Genre: Thriller

About the book: It’s a standalone following Aloysius Archer, a man who served in the war and went to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. It’s 1949 when Archer gets out. After a murder happens in a small town, he becomes the primary suspect and has to figure out the truth.

I received an advanced review copy from Hachette Book Group in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: I’m a fan of Baldacci, having read many of his other novels, so I was looking forward to this one. It’s different from his previous works, specifically the historical setting. Even the writing struck me as more descriptive. The beginning doesn’t throw you into the action right away, but rather it builds the world slowly.

Characters: Once I got to know Archer and learn more about his past, I started rooting for him. The secondary characters are also an interesting bunch. The author did a great job making me suspicious of everyone. Even so, I couldn’t figure out who killed whom.

Quote:

“The turth not only can hurt, but also can have the capacity to destroy.”

Writing: Like I mentioned earlier, there’s more description and world-building than his other novels. A lot of attention went into detailing what characters were wearing.

Final thoughts: I always love seeing how Baldacci ends his stories. I almost never figure out everything perfectly. I liked this ending, even though I didn’t see it coming. The suspense takes some time to build, but the story gets better as the plot advances.

I highly recommend One Good Deed if you’re a fan of historical crime fiction. It’s a departure from his earlier books in a good way.


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Reading

We Contain Multitudes – Sarah Henstra | A Book Review

Title: We Contain Multitudes

Author: Sarah Henstra

Genre: Contemporary Romance (Young Adult)

About the book: Jonathon Hopkirk and Adam “Kurl” Kurlansky find themselves writing letters to each other for an English assignment. They become friends and start to fall for each other, but bullying and homophobia ensue. The entire novel is written in letters exchanged back and forth between the two teens.

I received an advanced review copy from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: I love the cover and the title. I was excited because I like epistolary novels.

Characters: The characters are great. Jo resonated with me more than Kurl, but by the end, I adored them both. I enjoyed seeing their development. I was pleasantly surprised by the backstories of not only Jo and Kurl, but also the secondary characters like their parents and siblings. I will always love representation of any kind, especially when it’s done right.

Quote:

“Let’s not be the type of people who are afraid to live because we might die.”

Writing: The letters are short. I didn’t expect Henstra to tackle some of the issues she did, but I appreciate how she went about it.

Final thoughts: So much happens at the end. An epistolary novel has its quirks and limitations, but the author made it work for me. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but the format might grow on you. Overall, it’s an emotional, well-written read.

I recommend We Contain Multitudes if you like contemporary romances with a twist.


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